Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Strained Muscle Rehabilitation

Healing time for most muscle strains is 2-4 weeks. Resume exercise when the swelling and pain resolves.

Use the following guidelines:

  • Choose exercises that involve smooth motions, such as skating, biking, or swimming.
  • Exercise should not cause pain.
  • Increase the intensity and stress on the injured area gradually, as long as the movement does not cause pain.
  • Perform movements on your own: do not allow another person to move the injured joint.
  • Placing the injured area in an ice bath for 3 minutes before exercise may speed healing.
  • Before you advance your level of physical activity, one must be able to:
    • Bear weight on the lower extremities without pain.
    • Move the injured joint completely in all directions.

Tips for safely increasing activity after minor leg strains:
  • Be sure that you can move the joints around the muscle in all directions without pain.
  • Gently increase stress on the muscle by shifting the weight from foot to foot.
  • Bear weight on the heel, then on the toes.
  • Walk with short steps.
  • Walk with long steps.
  • Walk in circles, figure-8, or weaving pattern.
  • Jog in a straight line.
  • Jog in a lazy S or large figure-8 pattern.
  • Jog in a sharp Z or smaller figure-8 pattern.
  • Consider using a light functional splint (e.g. Aircast), to help maintain joint alignment under the stress of physical activity and sports.
  • Further exercises for athletes:
    • Sprint: slow starts and stops (5-10 yards) with your ankle taped by a trainer.
    • Sprint: quick starts and stops (5-10 yards) with your ankle taped by a trainer.

Continue to Strained Muscle Warning Signs

Last Updated: Mar 26, 2009 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Strained Muscle References
  1. Bennett R. Addressing musculoskeletal pain. Geriatrics. 2004 Aug;59(8):11-2. [15332411]
  2. Croisier JL, Forthomme B, Namurois MH, Vanderthommen M, Crielaard JM. Hamstring muscle strain recurrence and strength performance disorders. Am J Sports Med. 2002 Mar-Apr;30(2):199-203. [11912088]
  3. Garnett WR. GI effects of OTC analgesics: implications for product selection. J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash). 1996 Sep;NS36(9):565-72. [8824076]
  4. Orchard JW. Intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors for muscle strains in Australian football. Am J Sports Med. 2001 May-Jun;29(3):300-3. [11394599]
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